Sunday, 24 November 2013

Startup Leadership Program: Session 5 | Product Development

SLP sessions get better with time OR maybe its us who are getting more open & have more clear questions to ask. 
Product Development is a very broad area with aspects of design, development, team, time to market, opportunity cost & relentless perseverance. 

So what is Product Development?

Its a triumph of technology and human ideas that shape up into a product/service that solves a need | make an existing process better, cheaper or faster.
By far the session on "Product Development" on 16th Nov'13 was one of the most enriching sessions we have had so far. Partly due to the mentors & remaining due to the varied issues realted to product management discussed.

AntFarmer - Subhojit Basu

The day started with our very own AntFarmer - Subhojit Basu who gave a glimpse of his journey as an inventor & entrepreneur. There were lot of lessons in his story:
  • How a technological leap even if it takes time can have exponential dividends
  • How 3F's i.e. friends, families & fools can be a major part of emotional support & the early funding days before an Angel or VC comes in.
  • How you can maintain a lean team and outsource the rest.
  • How circumstances and serendipity (in his case the worst times of 2009-10 & dropping out of PhD ) can shape your careers in different light
  • How pivoting is an organic process, not an epiphany as many put it.
  • Business Models at times is highly overrated  selling toys to home automation, we put a lot of emphasis on Business Models but a technological or process leap can have implications we never know. So making money is the key but not a zero-sum game. It may come to you with time.
  • Finally, love for the product/service is the ONLY THING AN ENTREPRENEUR needs to focus on, rest is just noise.
His humbleness, honesty & down to earth won him many hearts and we wish him best for the future. Although, I would personally like to now more about his 3 years and the emotions and challenges he went through. That would make for a good story & lots of lessons for any budding entrepreneur.

Dr Premnath - Director | Venture Center

It was amazing to see these two schools of thoughts ( Dr Premnath & Manish Kumar ) talking on product development & strategy. This was mentioned to me by our fellow Ashish Bogawat during tea and I thought about it. 

It was science & passion VS business models & hard core sales/revenues.

First Dr Premnath, I have developed a huge respect for him over the interactions. His depth, understanding of product & strategies combined with a sense of long term vision & problem solving amazes you.
He not only gives you flaws in your narratives but also offers a roadmap. A trait that separates practitioners from intellectuals. I loved the way he explained the early stages of a product where funding etc is never an option and how entrepreneurs can navigate that territory. 
He is in every sense a public intellectual in my dictionary.

His classification of Problem vs Solutions narrative & how great products either have a great understanding of the problem st hand or have a compelling solution that is cheaper, better & faster is like PRODUCT 101 for beginners.
Case of our Nishant is a great set of problem statements for medical technology, whereas case of our Nitin is a set of great solutions (UAV brain) waiting for application to many problems.

Manish Kumar - CEO | IncuCapital

Manish Kumar gave an interesting perspective on building companies. He pointed out various flaws in pitches by our three fellows. 
Playing a Devil's Advocate is an important job. Nobody wins browny points doing it, however someone has to do it every now & then, to wake budding entrepreneurs from slumber of their own ideas & vanities. He just did that.

I liked how he made the argument on importance of TEAM & PEOPLE in the equation as the core. His effort for a marketplace for budding entrepreneurs & VC's was in interesting concept.
However, I still not able to clearly understand how it was different from an Angelist by Naval Ravikant. Which by the way you guys should check out.

Manoj Kothari ( Co-Founder | Onio Design )

Finally, it was Manoj Kothari ( Co-Founder | Onio Design ) who discussed innovation design & thinking for products. I loved the way he started by taking questions and addressing them rather than jumping to the slide decks !! A fresh relief from normal narratives.

Key takeaways:
  • Design is not how things look but how people use them
  • Design is more an art than its a science.
  • Why its important to look at sideways for patterns in business branding & positioning. Case in example if you are a dentist look how Spa owners position themselves and brand them
  • Importance of white spaces and minimalism.
  • How entrepreneur needs to create a team & culture from top-down
  • Finally, looking around your environment & close observation - in other words your senses can be a vital input for your design innovation. Be confused for some time - mind processes and brings clarity.

It was an enthralling day followed by some puzzles from Nishant & Nitin ( some from Mathematical Olympiad 1998 :) ) to add a bit of entertainment.

Kudos to Nitin & Nishant who did a wonderful job as CEO's and made this day a great learning experience.
Thanks to all the mentors for their time & wisdom.

As PayPal's Max Levchin once said the most important thing for an entrepreneur to be in the game is the LOVE FOR THE PRODUCT - not money, not fame, not accolades, not vanity....just LOVE FOR THE PRODUCT rest is just distraction.

I believe him even more.


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